New chief judge for 9/11 case at Guantanamo

A guard tower at Camp 5 at the US military's prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has instructed military judge Douglas Watkins to oversee court proceedings for 9/11 suspects imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said Friday.

Watkins, a US army colonel, replaces now-retired colonel James Pohl.

As chief judge, Watkins will be responsible for assigning military judges to each case referred to a special military tribunal.

The so-called "9/11 Five" -- including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- have been locked up at the Guantanamo Bay military prison for years and were first charged in 2008.

But an unending slew of legal missteps, issues with military court proceedings and problems stemming from evidence extracted under duress have seen the men's prosecution morph into a quixotic attempt at justice.

The judicial process is complicated by the fact that the prisoners passed through secret CIA prisons, where some were subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- a euphemism for torture -- information from which was used to construct the prosecution's case.

This is especially true in the case of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and subjected to numerous waterboarding sessions -- which simulate drowning -- prior to being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006.